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Merck Launches $20 Million Science Initiative

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A worldwide chemical-research and pharmaceuticals company based in New Jersey has launched a $20 million initiative to enhance elementary teachers' knowledge of science and mathematics and to support systemic reform in those subjects.

Officials of Merck & Company launched the Merck Institute for Science Education late last month at a conference for 500 teachers, education officials, and community leaders from four districts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania at the Liberty Science Center in Rahway, N.J.

"The Merck Institute is an effort to light the scientific spark at a young age and keep it burning,'' said Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, in opening the conference.

The institute's goal is to create a measurable improvement in student performance in math and science by focusing long-term support on districts located near Merck facilities.

The Merck Company Foundation has pledged to invest $2 million annually for at least 10 years to support the project.

Districts participating in the project include Rahway, Linden, and Readington Township in New Jersey and North Penn in Pennsylvania.

Other districts may later join the effort, officials said.

Four Objectives

The institute will have four basic components, according to its director, Carlo Parravano.

They are:

  • Sponsoring professional-development programs for elementary teachers to expose them to the principles of hands-on, participatory science teaching. The programs will use Merck scientists and experienced teachers as mentors.
  • Helping reform teacher education by joining forces with leading universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The institute already has developed a model program in conjunction with Princeton University that matches undergraduate teacher candidates with experienced, highly skilled teachers.

  • Establishing a resource center in Rahway to dispense exemplary materials and demonstrate "best practices'' to teachers and administrators.

The center also will train Merck employees who want to serve as volunteers in local schools.

  • Participating in state and national restructuring efforts that stress math and science education in kindergarten through 12th grade.


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